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Florida education panel approves African American history standards, despite opposition

The Florida Board of Education approved a new curriculum for African American history for kindergarten through 12th grades, despite criticism over the omission of “key historical facts about the Black experience." File Photo by Bruce Brewer/UPI
The Florida Board of Education approved a new curriculum for African American history for kindergarten through 12th grades, despite criticism over the omission of “key historical facts about the Black experience." File Photo by Bruce Brewer/UPI | License Photo

July 19 (UPI) -- The Florida Board of Education approved a new curriculum for African American history Wednesday, for kindergarten through 12th grades, despite criticism over the omission of "key historical facts about the Black experience."

The board voted unanimously at a meeting in Orlando to enact the new social studies standards, as board members defended their decision.

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"If anyone takes the time to actually look at the standards, you can see that everything is covered," Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. said.

"From elementary school where we start talking about those who have been prominent African Americans and as age appropriate, we go into some of the tougher subjects, all the way into the beginnings of the slave trade, Jim Crow laws, civil rights movement, everything that occurred throughout our history," Diaz added.

During an hour of public comment before the vote, most speakers spoke out against the new curriculum saying it omits the oppression of African Americans, leaves out Florida's role in slavery and uses outdated language.

A group of 11 organizations -- including the NAACP and the Florida Education Association -- also blasted the plan in a letter to board member Ben Gibson.

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"We owe the next generation of scholars the opportunity to know the full unvarnished history of this state and country and all who contributed to it -- good and bad," the letter reads, while adding that the plan rewrites "key historical facts about the Black experience."

The new curriculum for African American history comes after Florida rejected an AP African American history course earlier this year and banned it from being taught in Florida public schools. The Gov. Ron DeSantis administration sent a letter to the College Board Florida Partnership, saying "the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value."

State officials said the course was rejected because it veered too far into political agendas, including Black Lives Matter, Black feminism and reparations.

Genesis Robinson, political director for advocacy group Equal Ground, argued Florida's new curriculum would benefit from going into depth about how or who promoted the violence and disenfranchisement of Black people in the United States.

"When you couple these standards, with the environment, the hostility towards daring to talk about certain subjects, it creates an environment where there's going to be a complete removal of these conversations and of these lessons in the classroom, " Robinson said, "because nobody wants to run afoul of all of the laws or policies that have been put in place."

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